Succession planning is one of those things that we like to play lip service to. Especially in HR, we talk a good game about naming successors. In reality, it is overlooked, and at great risk – not only to the staff under the manager in question, but also to any part of the organization that he or she touches. Perhaps succession planning gets a bit of a short riff since it is seen as somewhat morbid. I have talked to many managers whose response when the topic is broached is some variation of: “Are you looking to replace me?” To those of you who may see succession planning as just that – looking for your replacement, that is precisely what we are doing! But not in the manner that you may be thinking. When I am looking to develop a succession plan, I am looking to build a bench for this manager so they can assume more responsibilities within the company. It is foolish of any leader to look to promote anyone only to leave a gaping hole where they were. It is far easier to hire outside of the organization. There are other reasons for having a succession plan in place. For instance, if you have named a potential successor, at least in your mind, you are committing to train and develop them. I have found that those that have training and developing their people as a priority have more time to do bigger and better things.
If you are a manager of people, and perhaps you have a succession plan in place for yourself, it would behoove you to have one in place for your people as well. Have a conversation with each of them – you don’t want to step into an expanded role, only to find that while you have a successor in place, they cannot step into your role because they haven’t developed their replacement.
Succession planning is a classic example of a Quadrant II activity in the Eisenhower Matrix – meaning that it is Important, but not Urgent. The thing is, like so many things that are important, if we aren’t careful it can become a Quadrant I activity – meaning it is both Urgent and Important. The problem is, training and development can’t be rushed.